Former Khemara Keila captain Kuoch Sokumpheak (right) has recently joined league champions Phnom Penh Crown. Photo by: Sreng Meng Srun
Lah Salakhan, manager of Khemara Keila, told The Post yesterday that he has sent a letter to the Football Federation of Cambodia informing of his team’s withdrawal from the 2011 Hun Sen Cup which will starts on January 7. The decision not to enter the team has been made due to financial problems and the mass exodus of key players.
“It is a difficult decision but we can not reach our goal if we don’t have enough sponsorship,” said Lah Salakhan.
Khemara Keila is one of the most popular football clubs in the Kingdom, founded in 1997. The side claimed the title in the first two seasons of the domestic league after its launch in 2005. They also became the first Cambodian team to reach the semifinals of regional tournament the AFC’s President Cup in 2006 and were champions of the inaugural Hun Sen Cup in 2007.
Following the departure of main sponsor Prince Norodom Rannaridh, former president of National Assembly, in 2008, the club has struggled to make ends meet. In this year’s Metfone C-League, Khemara finished seventh while they have also made quarterfinals exits in the past two Hun Sen Cups.
To make matters worse, talismanic skipper and striker Kouch Sokumpheak recently decided to join reigning league champions Phnom Penh Crown along with Khemara goalkeeper Hong Visokra. Another key player, Ek Vannak, is now in Naga Corp, while Sophal Udom, Samuth Dalin, Hou Sambo and Suon Makara will feature in the line up of newly promoted Police Commissary.
58-year-old Lah Salakhan, who played as a forward at international level from 1967 to 1975, expressed his desire to see his former players achieve success with their new clubs. “I’m annoyed because I cannot keep them without payment. I hope they will have a great future in their careers,” he said.
However, the Khemara boss insisted he would still try to keep his team alive and find sponsorship to play in the 2011 Metfone C-League. “Football is my life, so I really want to encourage and give chance to youngsters to show their performance,” he said. “If we have money, Khemara will shine brightly again,” he said.
FFC General Secretary Ouk Sethycheat said yesterday he has yet to see the letter, but recognized the difficulties in running a club. “The FFC always encourages all affiliated clubs to find the sponsorship. For the Hun Sen Cup, we welcome all clubs, especially the provincial based ones. If Khemara cannot join, we will find a replacement,” he said.
“For guarantees of stability and professionalism, we encourage all clubs to sign contracts with the players, as stated in FIFA guidelines. When the clubs become at least semi-professional, they will be also be strong and it will be to lobby the sponsors.”